Disparities in access to telemedical care during the pandemic

While COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for the U.S. health care system, it has also accelerated innovation, including the use and adoption of telemedicine. Hospitals and other providers have turned to telehealth and remote monitoring technologies at an unprecedented rate to maintain access to routine care for non-COVID patients and monitor COVID patients at home. However, just as the burden of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality continues to fall on more marginalized populations, so too have the socioeconomic, racial, and gender inequities in access to virtual care.

In a recent study in Circulation, Lauren EberlySameed KhatanaAshwin NathanSrinath Adusumalli, and colleagues examine how the use of telemedicine for outpatient cardiology care affected existing inequities in access to care for certain populations. They examined the electronic medical records of 2,940 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s cardiology clinics who were scheduled for ambulatory telemedicine visits from March 16, 2020 to April 17, 2020, after local shelter-in-place orders went into effect. They compared the characteristics of patients with completed and non-completed visits, as well as patients with video and phone visits.

About 46% had completed a telemedicine visit, while the remaining 54% cancelled or did not show up to their visit. Compared to patients who did not complete a telemedicine visit, patients who had a telemedicine visit were slightly older, more likely to be male, and more likely to speak English. Among patients who completed their visits, patients with video visits were more likely to be male, less likely to be Black, and had a higher median household income than patients who completed telephone-only visits.

This story is by Armaun Rouhi. Read more at Penn LDI.